I was a raised as a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian.
And giving that up was a very big deal for me. It was difficult for me emotionally to realize, little by little, that most of what I had been raised to believe was at best misleading, at worst a total lie. When you’re a kid, you trust the adults around you who seem to know what they’re doing. That trust shapes who you are; it creates the foundation of your world view. For me, it was calamitous to discover that this foundation was shifting sand. Also difficult was realizing that these people whose approval I had sought had been leading me down a path of deceit and error.
My church showed anti-evolution films to the congregation. In retrospect, these movies were so poor as to be laughable, but the adults around me were persuaded, and for a long time I was, too. That kind of intellectual irresponsibility is hard to forgive. There were other kinds of propaganda at my church as well, all designed to foment the fear of the other, the other being people who weren’t among the elect followers of Christ: there were anti-Rock music seminars, lots of Satan-worshiper fear mongering, and the like.
I’m amazed my parents let me play Dungeons and Dragons. But, fortuitously for them, I fell in love with Classical music and had no use for Rock.
I struggled with my church’s notions of morality, which were confused and conflicted, and always deeply unsatisfactory to me on many levels. As an example: the average conservative church goer’s utter hostility towards basic human rights for gays strikes me as peculiarly antithetical to Christ’s teachings. There are numerous other examples, which I don’t need to delve into right now. Worse yet was the oft-encountered assumption that Jesus was implicitly on the side of the GOP. In those days, I was a registered Republican as soon as I was 18, but I knew that assuming God’s favor was obviously impossible, and in fact leads to some really bad decision-making. Still, the notion is pervasive among many Christian churches. The idea that God could possibly favor one political party over another really needs to be vigorously challenged immediately, but I rarely saw (or have seen) anyone doing so.
The cognitive dissonance–of trying to reconcile the endemic kinds of judgmental, Pharisaical behavior of far too many Christians with Christ’s supposed teachings of love and forgiveness–was too painful for me to tolerate for long. To just say they weren’t “true Christians” was no solution, either; that path leads to arrogance and the worst kind of sneering elitism, precisely the kind I couldn’t stand. The churches that taught meekness, humility, love, compassion, and sacrifice–as Jesus taught–are not the huge, successful, mega-influential churches that are dominating the culture of the U.S. The successful ones ultimately pander to human avarice and pride; some are more subtle than others, but all the big ones do, and that is unforgivable.
Ultimately, for numerous reasons I came to doubt the Bible as the literal word of God–that it could be utterly reliable in all respects, as I was taught–and long story short I eventually came to realize that the whole notion of Christian atonement for sin, not to mention the notion of “Original Sin,” was utterly insane. With Adam and Eve came the Original Sin, causing Mankind to be separated from God. Exclusively via acceptance of the sacrifice of his “only” Son (why only? why not dozens of the bastards?) can Man’s Sin be redeemed, and thereby direct fellowship with God be allowed, and salvation gained. I came to feel that the whole idea was pretty fucking bizarre. God would have to be one twisted motherfucker for that to make any sense. Going into details about all that is wrong with this is a topic for another thread. Regardless, the house of cards crumbled.
What was painful for me? For starters: Being honest with myself that I couldn’t believe what I had been taught, and needed to relearn everything. Coming to realize that the approval of these people I thought I respected wasn’t worth it. Discovering that the world view I had believed was a total myth, and everything I thought I understood about the universe had to be reconstructed, myself along with it. Realizing that on some level, my parents and I were no longer going to be able to relate to each other.
(Actually, my parents and I have stayed pretty close, mainly by carefully avoiding certain topics around the dinner table.)
In the end, what I can say is that painful as it was, the process was worth it. I was miserable when I was trying to believe in that crazy web of myth, fiction, and confused morality popularly known as “Christianity.” Saying I’m happy now would be a bit of a stretch, but I am far happier now, and far more at peace with myself and the universe, which is more important anyway.